Flooring focus: Hella Jongerius Q&A

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The Dutch designer Hella Jongerius discusses her work with Kvadrat


Words by Emily Martin

Dutch designer Hella Jongerius has an extensive portfolio of products to reflect an exciting career as one of the world’s best industrial designers. With clients including Vitra, Kvadrat, Ikea and Camper, her work often explores craft and technology, while she has produced various collections of textiles, ceramics and furniture through her studio Jongeriuslab. Earlier this year Jongerius once again teamed up with Kvadrat to deliver new designs for the latter’s Bold rug collections, called Bold Block and Bold Melange, in addition to its Duotone range. She has also designed a new rug for Kvadrat called Haven.

What inspired the designs for your latest Kvadrat rug collections?

For the rugs Bold and Haven… the design is foremost informed by the yarn. Haven is the first knitted rug that I have designed, and its design is inspired by the joyful aesthetic and meticulous construction of an antique Chinese money bag. The earthy tones and bulky yarn make it a soft, comfortable and embracing rug. The rug is designed to appeal to us on a sensory level. In general, I am interested in a definition of quality that is more touch-oriented than eye-oriented.

Bold and Duotone were two of the first rugs that I designed for Kvadrat. Duotone is woven with a very simple flat-woven basket construction – the archetype of weaving. The warp and weft have different colours that together create a small-scale colourblock pattern throughout the rug. Together with the slight irregularities of the yarn, this creates a vibrant rug that is at the same time a basic product.

Tactility and warmth are the essential characteristics of a rug, and with Bold I focused on developing a special yarn to achieve these qualities. A combination of techniques results in soft, voluminous and irregular yarns that define the rug’s design. For Bold Melange we designed a grey melange warp yarn that is combined with a solid-coloured weft to give the rug extra depth of colour

The Bold Block designThe Bold Block design

In a hi-tech world, how important is it to use traditional/ handmaking methods within product design? And why?

Traditional handwork brings a human factor in the industrial design world. The handwork results in a product that carries human traces, and that makes it easier to relate with it, and build a relationship between the user and the ‘thing’.

We live in a world of fast fashion, in which textiles have become a throw-away product. We are losing skills – like the craft of weaving, with its richness and quality of textiles and the expression that it has. And we also live in a digital world. Today, it is becoming increasingly important to have a haptic environment, something real to touch – tactile, rich, and diverse. That way the ‘real world’ becomes more present around us. We can create a comfortable and safe environment from where we can surf into the digital world, with a tactile reminder of the analogue world around us.

What do you love about these collections the most?

For these rugs, I developed yarns that can be spun in such a way that irregularity and deviations occur during the manufacturing process. The semi-finished product dictates the design of the result. If you design an irregularity well, it can actually become a positive feature. In this way, you introduce energy into a product – you breathe life into it and raise it above the level of insipid industrial perfection.

For Bold Melange a grey melange warp yarn is combined with a solid-coloured weft to give the rug extra depth of colour
For Bold Melange a grey melange warp yarn is combined with a solid-coloured weft to give the rug extra depth of colour

Why did you want to work with Kvadrat on this collection?

Our long-term relationship, with respect for each other, plus the knowledge at Kvadrat, creates a fertile ground for developing serial products with a high quality. We both want to show the market that you can work with attractive, natural materials in a commercial context as well, and that differences between rugs or parts of rugs can actually be a sign of quality rather than a drawback.

Innovation in textiles, especially in the case of rugs, starts first of all with the design and development of new yarns. The use of a special yarn, produced using a traditional basic technique, often creates a fresh and unique signature.

The challenge in the industrial manufacturing of textiles is how to capture this ‘authentic aliveness’ of the material and adhere to all ‘quality control’ and the testing programmes the industry requires of textiles.

How integral is flooring to the success of an interior space?

Rugs can make a statement, an accent in a space; this quality is still exploited only a little in the contract market. They also lend identity to a room. An area rug is actually a new space within a space. The rug defines an area, and, in turn, has consequences for the placement of the furniture.

A rug is not only a platform for the items you place on top of it but also a bridge between the various proportions, forms and materials. All these different elements produce a coherent whole, a single family, if you will. You could therefore view a rug as a powerful organisational principle that determines which activities can take place there.

For Bold Melange a grey melange warp yarn is combined with a solid-coloured weft to give the rug extra depth of colour
For Bold Melange a grey melange warp yarn is combined with a solid-coloured weft to give the rug extra depth of colour

What impact do these rugs have on an interior space?

The general function of a rug is to offer comfort. ‘Comfort’ means the perception that a rug generates: the warmth, the softness, the improved acoustics, and the feeling of privacy and safety.

I am a big fan of rugs with a duotone colour scheme, meaning that there is one colour for the warp and another for the weft and they mix throughout the rug. This is the case with Duotone and Bold Melange. These rugs are special basics – basic in the sense that the weaving technique is very simple and they don’t have an outspoken pattern. But despite the basic colour scheme (duotone) and the plain weave, no square centimetre of the carpet is the same! Each encounter between the warp and the weft is different, making for a lively, animated surface and a piece of textile that has its own dynamic and presence in the room.

If you spend some time with the carpet, the surface seems to move, breathe, pulse. At some places the darker toned weft seems to pull back, and in other places it seems to rise up.

The meeting of the two colours in the plain weave of Duotone brings sometimes a soft whispering of the different hues, and if the yarns are more contrasting the rug starts to become very vibrant.

How does the designing of rugs compare with designing furniture?

A rug is in essence a two-dimensional product. There is no construction needed, just an expression of yarn and colour. This means that a rug should begin with designing the yarn. Designing a special yarn in a traditional or basic technique creates a fresh and unique handwriting.

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